Back pain is incredibly common - so much so that 80% of us are expected to experience back pain at some point in our lives. As such, back pain is also a leading cause of missed days at work and missed time spent with family and friends. Over time, back pain can also lead to other issues such as stress, depression, insomnia and other chronic health conditions.
Plum Dragon Herbs is on a mission to help stop the back pain crisis and help people live pain-free, the natural way. Here we’ll share a few essential lifestyle habits that offer lasting, holistic relief for your lower back pain.
4 Essential Habits to Relieve Lower Back Pain
While many people turn to over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers to find some relief, these rarely help treat the root of the pain. As a result, we’re left constantly coming back for more.
Unlike conventional pain relievers, these lifestyle habits and tips go further to both offer pain relief and a long-term solution for better back health:
1. Ease pain with smart exercise.
It’s no news that exercise is an essential habit for a fit and healthy lifestyle. But exercise is also one of the best ways to manage and prevent low back pain. Exercise helps us lose any extra weight that is putting pressure on the spine, helps to improve our blood circulation and releases natural pain-killing endorphins.
In Chinese medicine, pain usually corresponds with “stagnation “ or “stuck” energy, blood and fluids. This can be the case in both chronic low back pain as well as acute pain due to injury. When the body has healthy blood flow, the muscles, joints and nerves of the low back get the nutrients they need to heal faster and stay flexible and strong. Along with a healthy diet and herbal medicine, exercise is one of the best ways to improve blood flow and ease pain or tension.
When exercising with low back pain, it’s important to choose activities that will support your back, not stress it. Start with low-impact exercises like walking, yoga and tai chi or qi gong. If you’re an avid athlete, but your back pain is keeping you from reaching your goals or participating in your passion, consider reducing your normal workout intensity levels to 70% or less.
Like all good things, exercise should be done in moderation, especially when you’re working through pain. Overdoing it can be just as bad as not exercising at all, as over-exercising can make your body vulnerable to injury and even make your back pain worse.
You are what you eat… and if you’re eating inflammation-promoting foods, you’ll likely suffer the consequences. Inflammation is at the root of many health issues and can not only prevent our back pain from improving, but even make it worse.
Research shows that eating an anti-inflammatory diet is an effective way to help manage pain levels and improve overall health. Anti-inflammatory foods are often full of healthy vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that reverse the damage on cells and tissues. They also help the body shed extra pounds to help relieve pain.
An anti-inflammatory diet involves both eating the right foods and avoiding the inflammatory ones. To eat for better back health, you’ll want to avoid foods that are themselves inflammatory. These include processed foods, refined foods (like white bread, pasta, white rice), sugar (including beverages), dairy, fast foods, saturated and trans fats, preservatives, caffeine and alcohol. If you have a known sensitivity to a certain food or ingredient, these should also be avoided as it will cause an immune response, and therefore inflammation.
Now, on to what you can enjoy! Thankfully, there is a wide range of healthy foods that are anti-inflammatory and delicious. Here are some of the best foods to eat on an anti-inflammatory diet to relieve back pain:
- Carrots, beets, sweet potatoes
- Dark green leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli
- Cherries, berries, pomegranates and other dark fruits
- Ground flax and chia seeds
- Walnuts, almonds, pecans and brazil nuts
- Herbs like basil, rosemary and oregano
- Spices like cinnamon, ginger and turmeric
- Onions and garlic
- Healthy oils like olive oil, walnut oil and avocado oil
- Lean proteins like chicken and beans
- Oily fish like salmon, trout and mackerel
- Green, oolong or white tea
When it comes to managing pain, sleep is a priority. The body needs sleep to properly heal and repair tissue, relax the muscles and restore energy for the next day. When we are in pain or injured, sleep is even more important.
But there’s a vicious cycle at play. Back pain is also one of the biggest causes of sleep disturbance and insomnia. Pain wakes us up at night, and we toss and turn trying to find comfort. As a result, we miss out on the healing sleep we need and our pain only worsens.
To take back control of our sleep and calm back pain, we need to make sleep a priority. First, consider your bedroom environment. Is it set up for healthy sleep? Improper mattresses, pillows and even bedding can cause back pain and irritation through the night. You may benefit from an ergonomic mattress and bedding that supports your back and neck. Too much light or stimulating items in the bedroom (like laptops, phones or other electronics) can interfere with sleep and make the back pain more noticeable.
Next, you’ll want to establish a healthy sleep routine. Getting quality sleep starts about an hour before you get into bed. This is a crucial time to reduce any habits that may impede restful sleep (like watching TV or working) and triggering your brain to rest with nighttime habits. A warm bath, relaxing meditation or stretching routine can help ease the muscles of the low back while also calming the mind.
4. Take five for self-care.
Back pain not only causes stress, but stress can lead to increased pain. When stress becomes chronic (like it is for so many of us today), cortisol levels in the body rise. High cortisol levels have been shown to increase inflammation and our sensitivity to pain. To fully recover from low back pain and keep cortisol levels in balance, we need to make rest and stress management a part of our daily life.
But, taking time to de-stress and practice self-care is easier said than done. Busy schedules mean that free-time is often the first thing to get pushed to the “tomorrow” that never comes. But putting off self-care will only lead to worse pain, less productivity and deteriorating health.
Pledge to make self-care and stress relief a part of your daily routine by adopting a few simple habits:
Schedule your self-care.
Start your day with a stress-relief activity. Meditating for 10 minutes or even sipping a cup of herbal tea in silence is a great start. Alternatively, set an alarm for a certain time each day that acts as a reminder to take five. Step out into nature, find a quiet corner or simply rest your eyes from the screens for a few minutes.
It’s time for therapy.
Invest in a self-care service that relaxes the mind while also healing your back pain. Consider therapies like chiropractic, massage and acupuncture.
Make heat your friend.
Warming self-care treatments like a heat wrap, warm Epsom salt bath or even a foot bath can help soothe the mind and muscles.
Get herbal help.
Use natural pain relief products to soothe muscles and relieve tension during a self-massage or after your daily back stretch exercise.
Herbal topical products, like Plum Dragon’s Dit Da Jow line, are made with Chinese medicinal herbs that can help to fight pain at the moment while setting the stage for deeper healing. Many of these herbs have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and circulation-promoting properties that work to relieve pain.
For those with chronic low back pain, Dit Da Jow Ho Family is a great choice for quieting muscle pain, nerve pain and back pain related to the tendons and joints. It is also helpful in calming hot, irritated, inflamed pain.
The original Bruise Dit Da Jow is the best choice to relieve pain from newer back pain injuries as it helps the body move stagnation and inflammation in the initial healing process. This is an excellent choice for athletes who regularly strain their backs or other areas.
Ancestors Advanced is a concentrated nutritive Dit Da Jow formula that helps to relieve aches and pains from everyday life, arthritis and athletic training. It helps the body to condition and rebuild injured areas and to restore strength to tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage.
For those with lower back pain, the feeling of relief is priceless. The first step to a pain-free life is taking on a healthy lifestyle. Follow these habits and tips to support your musculoskeletal system from the root and say goodbye to back pain for good.